Coleen Ellis, expert on pet loss and grief

by | Oct 27, 2021

Coleen Ellis—an expert on pet loss and dealing with the kind of grief that results from losing an animal companion—recalls how the loss 18 years ago of her beloved dog, Mico, coupled with then working in the human funeral profession, inspired her to start the first pet funeral home, launching her on the path to becoming a sought-after speaker and consultant in the pet bereavement realm. As a way to invite Ellis to provide general guidance to those who’ve lost an animal (or soon will), I read part of an email from a longtime listener, who had just two days earlier said goodbye to her beloved dog, with whom she’d “had 14 wonderful years together.” Later in the conversation, we circle back to that longtime listener, and her loss, addressing how insidious grief can be, affecting someone more sharply after a hunk of time has passed than what they experienced in the initial period. Ellis explains how pet loss is considered a “disenfranchised death,” noting that in a country where approximately 30% of the population are not pet owners—and even some in that other 70% are not necessarily passionate, empathetic animal lovers—a huge number of people do not understand the human-animal bond, and therefore, cannot comprehend the grief over losing an animal companion. Some of the listener calls and emails underscore and elaborate on these ideas, including our first caller, who lost his pet the day after Christmas, and says he and his wife do not plan to bring another animal into their lives, conducts extensive research on grief, which he seems to be deeply in the throes of—Ellis observes that he is squarely in “the year of firsts,” the year after losing a loved one, when certain shared activities, occasions, holidays and so on tend to resonate more profoundly. Themes that emerge from her suggestions for someone who has experienced a loss include being kind to yourself and moving slowly—versus hastily or abruptly–in actions and decisions. (,,,

ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Mark James, who runs Bear Creek Custom Timber, a Saint Petersburg custom woodworking company, and who recently created a wonderful way to honor his late dog, Hank. In the spirit of those Little Free Libraries that people place in front of their homes (you know: “leave a book, take a book”), James constructed a similar cabinet for pet food, called “Hank’s Bark Box.” James talks a bit about Hank, recalling adopting him from a shelter, when he was a shy and quiet dog, evolving into a highly protective guardian of James’ house, known to bark at the wind. In the two weeks or so since he put up “Hank’s Bark Box” in front of his Saint Petersburg home, he’s had appreciative visitors avail themselves of the food—including a family who knocked on his door one night, and a college student and her King Charles Spaniel, who left him a thank you note—and a number of folks who’ve donated food.

COMEDY CORNER: Tom Papa’s “Pet People” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.



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